How do you quick-start the succession planning process?

This is the most difficult and complex question that a family business faces. An effective dialogue about succession requires two participants willing to discuss the matter. If a family member raises the issue and the controlling family member/ business owner remains silent, this indicates that the owner has decided to ignore the questioner, ignore the question, or ignore both. If the owner is determined to ignore the question then other family members can do little to move the dialogue or process along.

If the owner has chosen to ignore the individual, alternatives exist to move the dialogue forward. Business founders and their children often experience difficulty when discussing emotionally laden issues, such as succession, without the help of a third party. Almost every individual has someone to whom he or she listens, or whose advice they value; the family member initiating the succession dialogue should seek advice from that person on how to best proceed with this issue.